I’m in Acco!

It’s a wonderful feeling to be back at Manof. In a way it feels like I never left. Everything is set and ready for the incoming wave of coaches, CITs, and campers. I can’t wait. Here’s how I got here…

My journey began in the early morning on Thursday, 6/20, at my brother’s apartment in Jamaica Plain outside of Boston, MA. My first waking thought was to mentally check over everything I had packed, which was followed by a quick physical inspection of my carryon bag. All was set and by a little after 8am, Jesse and I were on the road.

We worked our way through a bit of traffic, said our goodbyes at the curb at Logan, and then I was off into the airport. After a bit of shenanigans getting properly checked in for me 3-leg, 2-airline flight to Tel Aviv, I cleared security and got myself comfortably ensconced at my gate. A short flight later I was in JFK, which I was happy to find felt much nicer than I had remembered. It then took working my way out of security, a short train ride, and a trip back through security to get to my next gate. On the plane I found myself sitting next to an 11 year old gear traveling by herself to Hungary. Way cool. I used some of my basic Hungarian, which she actually understood. The couple on the other side of me was on their way to Paris to take a river cruise to Prague. That’s definitely on my list of things to do one day. JFK to CDG (Paris) was smooth. I read, slept, watched a couple mediocre movies, and caught a second short nap right before landing.

I would have loved to been able to at least see some of Paris, but my short lay over combined with the heavy fog meant that I didn’t get to see anything. After chatting with some friendly travelers at the gate, I boarded and got back to my book (Inferno — Yah, Dan Brown is pretty fun). Not long after, I slept and woke up shortly before landing in Tel Aviv.

Walking off the plane, even at 5:30am, the weather was warm. I made it to passport control where I spent a little while chatting with a family who was on their way to Jerusalem and Jordan. After getting my stamp, I made my way over to the luggage carousel… where my backpack did NOT show up. Sigh.

I made a claim over at the desk and they said I should get my bag up in Acco in the next 1-2 days. I always tell my kids to never check their cleats. I’m so glad I didn’t! At this point I tried to use the international cell phone I had purchased before the trip… and the sim card was inactive. Hooray. Fortunately, my carryon bag was well packed and I didn’t have too far to go to get to Acco.

Right outside the airport, I boarded the train, made sure I was going north, and settled in for the 2 hour ride from TLV to Acco. At a little before 4pm I was at the Acco train station where I caught a 3 minute cab ride to Manof.

After clearing the Manof gates, I made my way to the main building where I found three CITs — Ali, Raz, and Asma! All three were in MA in April for the US tour. It was wonderful to see them all again. I then connected with Tomer, Mickey, Zolo, and Ben. Moving into my room (with Abe!) was easy, considering I had one small backpack to unpack.

For the next several hours I caught up with people, worked on various tasks, and helped setup. Around 7pm we all drove to the old city center and had a very nice dinner overlooking the water. An hour or so into dinner Linda, Bob, and a bunch of other people showed up. Our numbers are growing!

Fully stuffed with hummus and chicken, I got back to Manof and returned to working on my coaching training slides. Karym showed up a bit later, and he, Tomer, and myself ended up spending several hours late into the night working in the main office.

So far the morning has been pretty relaxing. Lots of tasks have been done, but the overall feeling is that everything is ahead of where it was last year at this time. The big thing we’re waiting for is the incoming wave of coaches and kids! As I was saying to Mickey earlier today, it’s nice being at Manof when it’s quiet… but it’s going to be so much better when we’re at full capacity and everything is in motion!

Community Visit, Departure, Jordan, Home

Camp Ultimate Peace 2012 is now complete and I am back home in St. Johnsbury, VT becoming reacclimatized to life in the states. It’s been a long journey from Acco to my home in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont….

Immediately after camp concluded and the last campers were on their busses home, the mad packing scramble began. Equipment was broken down, room cleaning began, and the logistics of everyone’s exit strategies for getting home fully coalesced. My fun began with a trip to a nearby car rental agency with a group of UP coaches. Due to Shabbat, UP needed to pick up a bunch of cars, and I needed one to get down to Jerusalem later the next day. After a short battle getting my rented GPS from Russian to German to English, I made it back to the Manof where everyone rested and then headed out for falafel on the beach! As the sun went down we socialized and enjoyed being together. That night everyone slept well.

The next morning Idan, Zolo, Mickey, and I traveled to Bu’eine Nujeidat, a village an hour east of Acco, located up int he valley overlooking large farms. The drive was smooth and we easily found the indoor playing area, a welcome respite from the high temperatures. Inside we found a very excited group of 15 players. Almost all of them had gone to camp and all of them were super excited for the clinic.

Over the course of the next two hours we ran through some drills, scrimmaged, and then at the end grouped up to talk about the session and give out spirit awards. The session was active, fun, and full of the joy of play. Everyone had a great time. Afterwards, we went out into the village to have lunch in two locations. Idan and I went to one home and Mickey and Zolo went to another. The meal was fantastic and so was meeting the families. Our host player was incredibly gracious and it was wonderful to meet the extended families in the community. By the time we left we were thoroughly stuffed and very content with the day. Back on campus we all got back to packing before later that evening we all took off for dinner in old Acco!

The next day, after a lazy morning, all the staff packed into rental cars to drive over to the Jordan river rafting location. Along the way a couple of our cars got flat tires (fun!), a problem that was quickly remedied by our talented coaching staff. Once we arrived at the rafting launch, we found it to be fantastically crowded so the whole staff headed out to find a place to go swimming. Eventually we found a section of the river to frolic in, at about the same time Maggie, Gabe, and I had to head out on our drive south to Jerusalem. The three of us said our goodbyes, wished everyone well, and started the drive south.

The Israeli countryside is gorgeous and really fun to drive through, especially on Shabbat when there are very few other cars on the road. The GPS led us straight to Dan’s place in northeast Tel Aviv where we dropped off our big bags, and then continued east to Jerusalem. Driving through untrafficed J’lem streets was quite fun. We found our parking lot, took a cab to the check point, walked through, and then took another cab to the Paradise hotel, located right at the entrance to the Azzeh refugee camp. There we met up with Linda and Bob, before we checked in and rested for a little while before dressing for the wedding!

Down in the hotel dining area we connected with Camp UP camper Lara and a couple of her friends, who joined us for a short meal before we packed into a van and were driven to the wedding site. In the evening light was got out of the van to a scene of dancing, headed by Hamouda and the groom, his older brother. I love all the dancing while sitting on the shoulders of others! We followed as the group danced their way into the dining hall, connecting with an orbital of cousins who knew us from Camp UP.

Inside the reception area Gabe, Bob, and I found a table on the first floor with all the men, while Maggie and Linda went up to the sixth floor to join the women’s group. Over the next several hours we talked, socialized, danced, and took in the lively atmosphere. We all got pulled in to dance, talked to many of the groom’s relatives, and had a blast interacting with all the kids who swarmed around our table. This summer, the 8 kids from Bethlehem were the first to come from the city except for Hamouda. Next year I wouldn’t be surprised if 20 Bethlehem kids came to camp! Towards the end of the night I got a chance to talk to the groom, who seemed a little tired after all the many hours of dancing. Late that night we took a van back to the hotel where we spent the night.

The next morning Gabe, Maggie, and I went over to Hamouda’s house to say goodbye before heading out. We found Hamouda’s brother Noer (sp?) sleeping on a downstairs couch, displaced by the large amount of relatives staying over. He surfaced from his rest and soon after we were joined by Hamouda’s parents Kamel and Sowad. We talked for a while and eventually Hamouda surfaced, having managed to get a couple hours of sleep. Brothers of the groom don’t sleep very much on wedding day 2 of 3! We learned all about what was to come that day — the main even being a large meal for almost 1,000 people! Kamel told us about the 300Kg of meat that they were cooking! Eventually we said our goodbyes and caught a taxi back to the checkpoint.

In J’lem we took another taxi back to our rental car and started the journey west back to Tel Aviv. Along the way we stopped to do some rental car paperwork (hooray for weird car regs in Israel!), and made it into Tel Aviv by mid-afternoon where I was dropped off close to the beach. A couple blocks later I met up with my college roommate, Eric, who had flown in the day before to join me on a romp to Jordan!

First, we walked north along the Tel Aviv coast, enjoying the bright sunny day and catching up on each other’s lives. We made it to a nice air conditioned lobby area where we grabbed lunch, coffee, cash, and some rest. We then caught a taxi to the main transport station in southern Tel Aviv where we idled for a couple hours until our bus to Eilat took off around 5pm. The ride south was smooth and easy. The bus stopped a couple times, at which time we got some good views of the Negev dessert. At around 9pm we made it into Eilat where we were happy to see our hotel was right next to the station. We also found the 95 degree weather at 9pm to be quite… intense!

After getting checked into our hotel, we walked down to the Eilat boardwalk to take in what we were told was the Vegas of Israel. It certainly was a Vegas meets LA meets Israel vibe. The IMAX pyramid was particularly intense (gaudy?). We had a great meal of sushi (for me) and Pad Thai (for Eric) before walking back to our hotel to get to sleep early.

The next morning we woke up early and caught a taxi to the border crossing, arriving by 6:15 with the hopes of crossing into Jordan right at the 6:30 opening. We ended up being the second pair of people through what was a very smooth if not long crossing area. On he other side we found a taxi (agressive!) and were soon heading north east to Wadi Rum. A little over an hour later we were dropped off at the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Center where we idled for a little while before our guide showed up around 9:15. The guide (Sulliman) then drove us into Rum Village, about 5Km into Wadi Rum.

Our first top was at a small grocery stand where Sulliman picked up the food we’d need for our day and night in the Wadi Rum dessert. After he loaded up, we drove a short distance to his house where we enjoyed some very nice sweet mint tea (my favorite!) and met his wife and a few of his kids. We learned more about the village and his life in Wadi Rum. Full of sugary tea, we got back in the jeep and headed out into the Rum. About 300 yards from the house the street just… ended.. and the dessert began. We drove out into the sand along nominally traveled paths and made out first stop at a small tent complex adjacent to a spring. While Sulliman rested, Eric and I hiked up several hundred yard to the mouth of the spring where we got our first long view of the area. The colors, rock formations, and utter desolation were all quite intense!

Next, we started our drive further into the Wadi Rum. We stopped at several valley formations where we got to climb amongst the rocks. We saw ancient rock carvings, a very large sand dune, and were careful not to burn our feet on the very hot sand. We also had the chance to talk to several other travelers and I got to practice my Mandarin!

By around 1pm we stopped for lunch and several hours of rest in the shade. Sulliman prepared a wonderful meal of vegetable stew and melon, and we rested in the cool shade.  It’s amazingly unreal the temperature difference between sun and shade in the dessert! Around 4pm we roused and drove about 20 minutes to the Bedouin camp where we spent the night.

At the camp Eric and I were joined by a father and his two young children. Together we climbed to a nearby ridge and watched as the sun went down over the large valley. Sitting among the alien rocks, with the warm breeze and bright sun is an experience I will always remember. We took sets of pictures of a falling sun, talked to the French family, and then made our way back to the tents for dinner. There we set up pads outside and then Sulliman brought our the dinner of a chicken and vegetable stew. Yum! Eric and I had fun speaking with the French children, and eventually we all went to sleep under the incredibly clear starry night.

The next morning Eric and I woke up early so that Sulliman could take us to the bus stop in Rum Village for our trip north to Petra. There we were supposed to take a 5JD (~$9) bus ride to Petra, but instead were greeted by two men who said the bus wasn’t running. This is the basic gist of the conversation that ensued:

Random guys (who we suspect were in collusion with Sulliman): “The bus isn’t running today.”

Us: “Why?”

Random guys: “The bus driver died last night.”

Us: “Wow, we’re so sorry. How’d he die?”

Random guys: “He was shot in the head.” (Hand motions used to explain.)

At this point Eric is starring down Sulliman who really can’t look Eric in the eyes.

Us: “Okay… how much is that taxi going to charge to get to Petra?”

Random guys: “40JD”

Us: “Yah, we’re not going to pay that.”

We eventually get them down to $43 USD and head on our way north on what turned out to be a great ride… just preceeded by a freakin’ weird story. (We strongly suspect one of the random guys was the bus drive and that since it was the low season he knew he wasn’t going to get a full bus to Petra.)

The taxi took us straight to our hotel in Petra — the Valentine Inn — where we checked in to what turned out to be a great and affordable room. We unloaded our stuff, took a quick trip to town to find an ATM, and then got a ride in the Valentine Inn van to the entrance of Petra, arriving around 10am.

We were stymied a bit at the entrance to the valley, but soon found our way down the paved path, past the Indiana Jones gift shops, and to the ticket counter. We then joined the moderately large amount of people on the 1km initial walk to the valley, past the Djinn blocks and a few temple carving. Over the next 6 hours we walked the entire length of the valley, past unreal rock carvings including the famed Treasury (Indiana Jones time!) and all the way to the Monestary. Along the way Eric and I met a very nice couple on the third week of their honeymoon trip all over Europe and the Middle East. We ended up spending the rest of the day with them along with Wanda, a UP coach who we randomly found on one of the side trails. It was a hot, hot sunny day filled with wonders of rock and intense views of an ancient city. We drank liters of water and several glasses of amazing fresh orange juice. By the time we made it out of the valley, back at the main entrance, we were ready to rest.

Eric and I then headed back to our hotel to clean up, after which we met up with Wanda at the Movenpick hotel, right near the Petra entrance, to dive into their lavish buffet. The meal was stunning and we ate until we were well past full. The food was excellent and the conversation even better. Out on the street after dinner Eric and I said goodbye to Wanda and took a cab back to the hotel.

The next morning Eric and I met our prearranged early cab (we met a great driver the day before) who took us to “Little Petra”, located a few km north of Petra, a site smaller, still very interesting, and much less traveled.

We were the first people there, and saw no one else in our hour at the site. Eric and I climbed all over ancient stairways, saw 1st century AD paintings, and had a wonderful time exploring. We even got to test a little bit of our rock climbing expertise.

Back at the entrance to Little Petra, we found our cab (the only one!) and he took us to a secondary (Bedouin) entrance to Petra. High above the valley the path looked like a long road with no shade, but it turned out to be a great walk filled with other sights to see along the way. We eventually merged with the main Petra canyon where we spent the next 3 hours working our way back to the main entrance, taking every side journey we could. By the time we made it back to the main entrance we had seen many more tombs, a huge free standing temple, and massive rock rooms. It was also pretty unreal to sip a nice soda, relaxing infront of the final resting place of the Holy Grail :)

Out at the main entrance, our driver picked us up, and drove use back to the Valentine Inn where we picked up our bags. Next, we made a short stop in the center of Petra where our driver got us a Schwarma lunch, which was very tasty and very cheap considering we weren’t the ones making the purchase. We then got on the highway and buzzed south, making the drive back to Aqaba in about 90 minutes.

Out in the hot, HOT sun of the border parking lot, we said goodbye to our driver and made out way through the crossing. The Jordanians were all humorous about the 46C (113 degrees F!) heat, while the Israeli section was a bit more serious, but in a building with AC. At the end of the checkpoint we exchanged some money back into Sheckles, and then made it to parking where we got a taxi back to Eilat’s bus station. There we got our tickets, had lunch, and then walked down to the water where we had a brief swim in the Red Sea!

After drying off (not hard!) we made our way back to the station and found our bus. We saw more of the desert over the the next 5 hours and read while the miles passed us by. We eventually made it into Tel Aviv around 10pm where we took a taxi north to the Hayarkon 48 hostel, where we checked in, dropped off our stuff, and went out to the beach area to walk around and get a late night dinner. We stayed up a bit longer, but were quite tired so we headed to bed relatively early in our 4-person hostel room.

The next morning we packed up our stuff, put it into one of the hostel’s storage lockers, and walked south east to the HaCarmel Shuk (market). We walked the long isles of stalls, pausing to purchase a few food items, our favorite being a very large Druze crepe with chocolate sauce. We left the Shuk stuffed and well content for the walk southward to Jaffa. There we saw a great view of Tel Aviv and then found a small cafe overlooking the Jaffa harbor (one of the oldest on the planet) where we enjoyed some lemonade and shade. A couple hours and lots of conversation later, we walked north along the coast, all the way to the hostel where we got our stuff. After a short internet cafe break, we caught a taxi north to Dan’s house where were talked for a while as Dan worked on logistics for the Israeli National Junior’s teams upcoming trip to Junior Worlds in Dublin. (He’s one of the girls team coaches.) We then drove out to a nearby Asian restaurant where I got my weekly dosage of sushi along with some fantastic spicy noodles.

Next, we picked up my bags at Dan’s house and he drove Eric and I to the nearby train station. There we said our goodbyes to Dan, who gave me a VERY cool Team Israel jersey (#pi!). In the station Eric and I found our platform and soon after had to part ways — Eric continued on to Jerusalem and a week more of traveling while I went to the airport to head home. What a grand 4 days we had together!

At the airport I cleared El Al security (always fun!), and relaxed at my gate. On the plane I quickly feel asleep and managed to stay unconscious for the first 8 hours of the 11.5 hour flight from Tel Aviv to JFK. Upon touching down I cleared all of the paperwork hurdles as fast as possible, but didn’t make my connection due to the initial flight being an hour late. So, I enjoyed a “fun” 5 hours in JFK waiting for my connection to Boston, which meant that by the time I made it to Boston it was Friday rush hour. So… the drive from Boston to STJ ended up taking 5 hours instead of 3…. but I eventually made it home.

I’ve now been home for three days. The reentry to life back in the states has been smooth, although, like everyone who is lucky enough to have a summer vacation, I don’t want summer to end and work to begin. I do still have a couple more weeks of freedom, which I will certainly enjoy.

My Ultimate Peace summer went so very far beyond everything I could have imagined it to be. I got to be a part of something truly special, in a unique environment, and I helped make the world a better place in a real and direct way.

My entire UP experience was made all the more meaningful by the fact that it was made possible by the support of my friends and family. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone out there who supported my journey.

Thank you for making it possible for me to collect many new stories, make hundreds of new friends, and have a better understanding of the complex world in which we live.

Thank you.


While everyone was super tired from the crazy spring through training camp, everyone was lively on Wednesday morning, pumped up for a day of spending time together! A great way to see how much fun we had during the first week is to watch this awesome slide show video put together by our resident photographer, Rachel Cerrotti:

After a quick breakfast, the whole staff piled into one coach bus for the trip north to our rafting boat launch! The two hour bus ride was scenic, and took us past sights like a high view of the Sea of Galilee. While I did see some of the views, including the Sea, I made use of the bus ride to sleep and rest some more.

We worked our way quite north, and then unloaded at the Jordan river boat launch where everyone grouped up into “Ultimate” or “Peace” boats. It turns our that lazy-river with some rapids stupe rafting can be quite “active” with lots of splashing, jumping, and other shenanigans. We all had a fantastic time, even those of us who were pulled into the river with no warning :) I do wish I had some pictures of the rafting trip, but we barely managed to get back with most of the very few sandals we brought on the trip, so, bringing cameras we out of the question.

The trip down the river took about 2 hours and by the time we were back on shore, everyone was excited, a bit tired, and quite ready for lunch. A short drive later we all packed into a fantastic restaurant which had a whole table spread of hummus, veggies, and pitas, ready and waiting for us. We obliterated the first round of food, and then had a great time talking while we ate through our second course. After a final round of baklava, and time spent saying goodbye to Jolian, we got back on the bus and drove the short distance to the Galil Mountain Vineyard where we had a great tour. The view from the balcony of the building wad gorgeous and reminded me of Napa. We say the large metal wine tanks, and the wooden aging barrels. We had a lesson on how to taste wine like a pro, but the highlight was definitely the 7 minute Galil promo video that was so… awesome.

The vineyard’s location was also quite interesting, as we could see Lebanon from right outside the building. In fact, on the way out back to Manof, we drove on the road that runs right along the border.

Back at Manof we had a long evening of having fun around campus. We read, played games, relaxed, celebrated Dan’s birthday, and overall had a fantastic time.

This morning I awoke to what sounded like a lively campus and made it downstairs to find… no one. Over at the dining hall I still didn’t find anyone and figured out that most people were still asleep. It turned out everyone was active about 30 minutes later and by 9:15 a bunch of us were headed southbound on the train fo Tel Aviv.

At the station we met up with CITs Ava and Gabe. After dropping off their luggage at Chelsea’s apartment, we met back up with the rest of the group at the Alenby entrance of the Shuk. We walked the crowded market and I picked up a another round of cheese and bread. Yay. We then settled in for lunch at a nearby cafe where we stuffed ourselves with huge salads and some great ice coffee. Ava, Gabe, and I did managed to sneak off for a bit to hit up a localc restaurant. Wonderful. Next, we headed west to the coast where we lounged on the beach for the next 4 hours. It was incredibly relaxing. At around 6pm the group moved east to Rabin square for dinner. I pealed off north to catch the train go the airport to pickup another CIT, Alice. The pickup went smoothly and by 9:45 we made it back to Manof.

The whole place is alive with the sounds of new introductions and reconnections between old friends. It’s an exciting time. Tomorrow orientation and training begins. Summer Camp here we come!

Haifa and Rest

On Monday morning I enjoyed being able to sleep in. Having my own room, especially one with fantastic air conditioning is wonderful. After hitting my snooze button a few too many times, I got cleaned up and then went downstairs to forage for breakfast.

I ended up hanging out in the main office administrative area with Zolo and Tomer for a few hours, learning about camp and having a great time bring around the energy that is the Zolo-Tomer connection. Maggie, Zolo, and Nathan took care of putting up banners, and then at around noon Tomer drove is to the train station where Maggie, Nathan, and I took the short ride south to the Haifa.

Out in the bright sun of Haifa I was reminded of being in Nice. We walked west, soaking in the rays and dodging some startlingly unlabeled construction areas. We passed the Maritime museum, and made out way up several flights of stairs to Elijah’s cave. There we found another beautiful vista and many people lounging in the shade eating lunch. Inside, the cave has very straight, milled-looking, sides, and a partition to separate men from women.

Next, we walked back down the flights of stairs, manuevered across some large roads, and found our way to the base of the small gondola that we took to the top of Mt. Carmel. The ride up was quick and along the way we were afforded another spectacular view of the coast line. At the top, we found a small pavilion that had a short audio recording built in that told us about the region. After listening for a while, we turned around the street and began waking further up the mountain towards the Bahai Gardens. Along the way we passed many gorgeous houses and absolutely perfect views. We imagined they cost about 10-20nis a piece :)

We finally made it to the gardens only to find that you can’t walk through each level without being on a tour, and the last tour had left an hour earlier. Regardless, we did get to walk around the upper level, which was quite beautiful. On the way out we got information on how to take the bus to the lower level of the mountain, and soon made our way to the German Colony area, way at the bottom of the gardens. On the street we found a very nice restaurant (Fattoush) and dove into a round of Sharwarma. We ate a leisurely pace and relaxed as the sun went lower on the skyline. Next, we made our way to the nearest train station, scooted back north to Acco, and then took a taxi back to Manof where we found that Bob and Linda had arrived.

A couple hours, everyone headed out to the old city of Acco for dinner, so naturally, Maggie, Nathan, and I had to join them. We ended up having dinner (the second one for some of us) at a spot overlooking the bay. It was a wonderful vista and the social time was grand.

Tuesday was a day of rest. We spent the day walking the grounds, and working on various camp prep tasks. Later in the day Maggie and I explored the very large farm area of Manof and saw many chickens, goats, sheep, other birds, dogs, and horses. They have quite the facility here! Later in the night, Zolo, Tomer, Bob, Linda, Maggie, Nathan, Karym, and I gathered for a pizza dinner, enjoying the last calm evening before the true storm.

At least 12 more staff members are making it into Acco today, with the largest wave coming in tomorrow. All the prep work is going well and everyone is excited for camp to begin!


I managed to bend to the will of my alarm clock this morning and get up around 7:30. After my daily morning flurry of email — something that is pretty fun with a 7 hour time difference — I packed up and met Maggie and Nathan down on the street. A short walk later, we were on the 480 bus bound for Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem we walked a few stops down the light rail line to a small market where we browsed the wares and picked up a round of iced coffee. After dealing very well with the light rail ticket machine, we hopped on and a few minutes later got off near the Damascus Gate to the Old City. Inside we found a gloriously packed warren of streets, side streets, and alleys. What a wonderful place! We walked downhill, towards the center, and along the way stopped at the Austrian Hospice on the word of one of Maggie’s friends who said there was a great view from the top. Without her friend’s note we would have never stopped, and we are so glad we did! The view from the top was amazing! After we took a slew of pictures and video clips, we kept on our downhill walk.

Several blocks of narrow, shaded, alleyways later we went through security and found ourselves facing the Western Wall. While Maggie and Nathan meandered around the main square, I went up to the fall and folded 4 pink cranes and added them to the wall. We then tried to find the main entrance to the Dome on the Rock, trying a spot that we were turned away from earlier, but then with the help of a random person on the street found out that the main entrance was in the square but only open from 1:30 to 2:30. So, we grabbed soem more water and headed back to the square, where we eventually found the line. There we realized that by what it says in the Torah, no Jews are allowed inside. We made our way through another set of security guards and then after a bit of knee covering, we were inside. Wow. What an experience being at the epicenter of so many faiths. We walked around the square, took pictures, and soaked in the atmosphere of the place. After a short rest in the shade on the north side of the dome, we found the exit and walked west towards the Chuch of the Holy Sepulchre.

We walked through several more layers of shaded alley streets, and eventually found the main entrance to the Church with the help of a very nice shop owner. Inside we found a small crowd of tourists, and another site with a powerful atmosphere. We rested in the Crusader chapel, near the tomb of Jesus, taking note of the wonderful beams of light shadowing the floor. We also walked to the lower levels to the site where Helena allegedly found the True Cross. After back tracking a bit, and stopped again so I could buy some nice souvenirs, we found a small cafe near the Damascus gate where we enjoyed a round of Turkish coffee. Soon after we caught the light rail back to the bus station where we had a slightly longer (due to traffic) ride back to Tel Aviv.

Back in the city we had a very refreshing walk to Chelsea’s apartment, stopping on the way to pick up some very tasty feta and spinach calzones. I’m now back in the apartment finishing up my prep work for tomorrow’s coaching clinic.

Exciting stuff!

Fundraising Update and Tel Aviv Part 2

My first fundraising deadline (6/21) is coming up very soon. While I will continue my fundraising efforts until mid-August, I am hoping to have most of my donations collected by this first deadline.

Thank you again for all of your wonderful support!

Yesterday we spent another glorious day exploring Tel Aviv.

I managed to seep in until 9:30am, which felt great, but was more unconsciousness than I had planned. After getting a bit of emailing done, I made the walk out to the water and then south to Maggie and Nathan’s hostel. They both met me in the lobby and we then walked south east to the Shuk, a large, shaded market containing a massive amount of… everything. We saw lots of clothing, trinkets, and tons of great food. It’s a shaded street market, so it was rather crowded, but not overly so. Towards the south end of the first street we walked down I found a wonderful cheese shop, and had to by come Cambozola blue cheese. Yum! A few yards down the street, we stopped and purchased a round of specialty chocolate. At the end of the street we turned around, and walked back up, this time, paying attention to the other side of the street.

Half way up I bough a 5nis ($1) baguette, which we followed up with a 1kg purchase of Baklava! Back in the main square we turned down the artists street, browsed some fantastic art, then found a street cafe/restaurant to sit at. Maggie had some great Falafel and Nathan a sandwich while I down half a baguette and most of my Cambozola. While eating we had a nice chat with a family from MN. Next, we walked back to the hostel, locked up our stuff, and went to the beach for some time soaking in the very refreshing water!

After swimming, we got cleaned up and relaxed for a while in a nearby airconditioned lobby. While there we ran into another Ultimate Peace Coach, Gabe. While relaxing and sending out a small flurry of texts, we arranged to meet up with Chelsea for dinner. By about 8pm we were all gathered up in northern Tel Aviv where we had a great meal of pizza and focaccia, topped off by some great ice cream.

Overall it was a fantastic day of soaking in the city and lots of wonderful food!

Today the plan is to see as much of Jerusalem as possible. Maggie and Nathan are meeting me here at Chelsea’s in the next hour to start our day. While out in Jerusalem I’m hoping to make the trip to Bethelehem to meet up with Hamouda. Also, I need to spend some time this evening polishing up my coaching clinic notes, which I will need tomorrow.

Tel Aviv

My morning began to the active city sounds of Tel Aviv. Given that I can sleep through any noise (for the most part), I had a very smooth sleep… that was also propelled by being spectacularly tired. After catching up on a few emails and getting cleaned up, I headed out to walk down to the hostel where Maggie and Nathan are now staying.

My walk took me to the coast where I got my first view of the water. Gorgeous blue with glowing sand. Wonderful. The morning was heating up quickly, but not to any massive extremes. I found Maggie and Nathan and we immediately walked out to the beach. The water was absolutely perfect and terrifically refreshing! Next, we packed up and headed south along the coast. About 15 blocks later we turned east into Tel Aviv and explored Shabazi and Rothchild streets. We grabbed lunch at an Israeli-style diner, and then back tracked to the coast. In Jaffa we were treated to an elevated view of Tel Aviv, a walk through some gardens, a tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and a few artisan galleries. Along the way we picked up a round of gelato and also made our way through a flea market.

We then walked back to the hostel where Nathan rested for a bit while Maggie and I took another trip to the beach. Maggie and I then met back up with Nathan for a cafe trip, which we followed by dinner at The Thai House. After an excellent meal, with conversation spanning some great Ultimate policy topics (Refs? AUDL? The future of youth Ultimate?), we parted ways with plans to meet up tomorrow to explore some local markets and hopefully play some pickup Ultimate in the evening. There’s also a chance I might make it out to Bethlehem to meet up with Hamouda.

Off to sleep I go.

My journey to Tel Aviv

First off, thank you so much for all of your donations towards my work with Ultimate Peace! As of this afternoon I’ve raised a total of $2,775! My goal has been to raise $5,000 by the first 6/21 deadline, but that may prove to be a little overly ambitious. That being said, the summer fundraising window run until the end of August, so I’m hoping I can pull in my target amount before then. Thanks again for all of your support!

As for my travels…

On Wednesday afternoon, after 4 days of intensive packing, I left St. Johnsbury and headed south to my parents’ farm in Leverett, MA. As usual, the drive was quick, propelled by several podcasts, and the mopey looks of my two dogs in the back. On the way down I found out that Caleb’s first round Little League playoff game has been rescheduled to Saturday morning, so I wouldn’t be able to see him play! Instead of an evening at the ball park, we had a great family dinner at the home, and then Caleb and I went to a late movie. It was a grand evening.

On Thursday, I managed to sleep in past 9am for the first time in several months, which felt great. By 10:30 I was in Amherst, enjoying a nice pastry at my father’s Deli while getting some work done on Ultimate Peace and other summer projects. Also, school work never really, truly ends for the summer. At 1:30 I met up with my mother for a fantastic lunch at Panda East, my all-time favorite Chinese Restaurant. After lunch, Caleb joined me at the Sheep, and we had a fun couple hours at two local book stores. By 5:45 we were back at the Sheep where Caleb picked up his fancy graduation clothes. A short drive later, we were both over at Valentine Hall at Amherst College for his graduation from the Common School!

The graduation was utterly fantastic! Each graduate made a poster representing the most important things in the life. Here’s Caleb’s:

The core of the ceremony comprised of Caleb’s teachers reading a statement covering their thoughts of each student, followed by each student giving a speech about something they learned while at the Common School. All of the speeches were absolutely wonderful. Here’s some video from the event, including the speech about Caleb, and the one he gave:

After all the speeches, there was a bunch of dancing. Way cool.

Photos from the event are online right here.

On Friday, I picked Caleb up after his last (half) day of school, which was mainly made up of a large all-school water fight. We then headed into Hadley to run some errands, and then back to the Sheep to connect with Dad. After collecting a few more items for my trip, I said goodbye to my father and to Caleb, and drove into the city to connect with my other two siblings. In Boston, a big group of us ended up at a friend of a friend’s house for a really awesome cookout dinner he was putting together as a demo tape for a cooking show he was competing for a spot on. I got to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and have what I think was my first bison burger. Good stuff. By 11pm I made it to my brother Jesse’s house, and immediately crashed.

By 5:45am the next morning Jesse and I were on the road to Logan. With no traffic the drive was easy, but then I forgot that my first leg was on American, and ended up at the wrong Terminal. After another round of getting to the wrong place (you’d think I would figure all this out better after all my traveling), I got through security quickly and had a bit of time to rest at the gate. While waiting for my flight, I received a great book recommendation (Ready Player One by Ernest Cline) from my school’s librarian, and I immediately dove in. I ended up cruising through the book and finished it shortly before touching down in Tel Aviv. If you in any way like 80’s pop culture, and/or video/tech, you’ll love the book. Heck, you might even like it without liking either of those things. Any book that references Sneakers is 100% awesome in my world ;)

The flight from Boston to London was smooth and I managed to sleep most of the way. In London, I followed a very well labeled path to my new terminal and gate, and soon found myself in the El Al security line. I had a nice conversation with a couple security agents, and then my bag was quite thoroughly searched. After pulling out a third camera from my carry on, the agent exclaimed that I must be “one good blogger”. (We had already chatted about my travel blog posts.) On the next leg of the flight I screamed through the rest of Ready Player One and got more excited about all of the events that are coming up in the next few weeks.

After touching down shortly before 5:45am local time on 6/17, I flew through the rest of the transport process. My checked bag showed up immediately, and there were barely any lines at all at customs or at the passport control desk. Out in the terminal I changed some money, found the train station, and right before 7am I boarded a train for Tel Aviv, guided by Chelsea’s great directions. At the proper Tel Aviv stop, I found the right bus, and by 7:45am I made it to the right apartment building. Go me!

I’m now comfortable ensconced at a fellow Ultimate Peace coache’s apartment (Chelsea’s). I’ve met up with a third Ultimate Peace volunteer, Nathan, and we are going go head out into the city a little later today to get food and sim cards.

In the mid-afternoon we’ll be connecting with a group heading to Bethlehem to run a mini-clinic.

I can’t wait!

Here’s the view from the balcony of the apartment I’m staying in:

Off to explore I go!

I got my tickets and UP visualized

I’ll be arriving in Tel Aviv on Sunday morning, 6/17 and taking off on Friday morning, 7/20.

I can’t wait!

As I go about my days thinking about Ultimate Peace, I’ve been focusing on what Ultimate Peace means. I’m a big fan of visualization, so, with the aid of the wonderful site Tagxedo, I  created a couple word cloud based on the Ultimate Peace about page: